Katherine Ann Lechner Dittoe of Pittsburgh, PA, 76, passed away at home, surrounded by family on April 26, 2023, after a 3 year battle with metastatic breast cancer. Born in Cleveland, OH, on September 29, 1946, Katherine was the daughter of the late Ruth and Robert Lechner. She was preceded in death by her beloved husband Patrick Martin Dittoe and sister Karen (Ron) Maslyk.
Katherine is survived and loved deeply by her daughter Sarah (Aaron) Dittoe Philbrick, son Jacob (Nikki Malloy) Dittoe, and daughter Christina Dittoe; her brother Robert (Sue) Lechner; and her grandchildren Tristan Dittoe, Gemma Dittoe Philbrick, and Lacey Fuhs. She is also survived by a wretched and mean-spirited orange tabby cat named Pada who is now being cared for by a very generous family friend.
After high school, Katherine completed some college at Bowling Green University and started a career in retail merchandising and management, working for reputable Ohio department stores such as Higbee's and Dillards.
In her early 30's, Katherine met and wed the late Patrick Dittoe. It was a shotgun wedding, and some of her friends advised against the partnership, calling Pat a rascal. But rascal or not, he was the love of her life, and they spent most of the rest of their years happy together.
By 1980, Katherine became a mom to her two kids. She would say that raising her kids (and later helping to raise and spend time with her grandkids) was the most meaningful, joyous time in her life. She was a natural caretaker, a nurturing mother and Oma who seemed to have an unlimited supply of time and love to give, showing up for and supporting all of her kids' educational, athletic, or artistic endeavors, always, even the really boring ones.
In 1983, Katherine and Pat moved to Southeastern Ohio to operate a group home for adjudicated teenage girls, and over the course of the next 7 years would love, coach, and care for more than 100 girls, some of whom she continued to have a relationship with until her death.
At age 33, Katherine became vegetarian because it was important to her husband to raise their kids vegetarian. She taught herself vegetarian cooking at a time when 'fake meat' wasn't a thing, making unusual but delicious family dishes such as tofu-sauerkraut balls, wheatgerm pie, hot pepper casserole, and grain burgers. Her personal sacrifice was mitigated by the occasional secret Filet o'Fish sandwich at the McDonald's drive-through, when she had a rare moment alone without the judgmental eyes of her family. 30 years later, she confessed her indiscretion and came out of the closet to eat her fish sandwiches openly.
When her work in the girls group home concluded, Katherine took her thick gold-hoop-clip-on earrings, her shoulder pads, her affinity for all things plaid, her Arpege perfume, and her big eyeglasses and returned to the retail sphere to manage the now defunct six-floor department store called Stone and Thomas, in Wheeling, WV. After the store closed its doors for good, and with an empty nest, she poured all of her creative energy into teaching herself plumbing, electrical work, and general contracting by watching You Tube videos and reading library books, and she single-handedly remodeled her kitchen and several other rooms in her home while her husband cheered her on from his easy chair.
Katherine had many other hobbies besides home remodeling. She enjoyed kayaking, drawing wildlife and cartoons, cheating at board games while gaslighting her opponents; trying international foods at different restaurants in Pittsburgh and mispronouncing everything on the menu ("What are Chlamydia olives?"); reading mysteries and watching British television; crushing on beau-hunk celebrities such as Robert Pattinson, Michael Kitchen, Idris Elba, and the guy who plays Jack Reacher in the tv show; finding retail deal mark-downs for family and friends; holding cute babies; watching rugby; smoking marijuana and chatting-up strangers; reading about Christianity and Buddhism, singing tunes from the 30s and 40s, quilting, sewing, and crafting; writing funny rhyming poems; and playing practical jokes.
Katherine's favorite hobby, however, was knitting. She was an expert knitter with over 60 years' experience. After she retired, Katherine very briefly started a small online business to sell homemade, knitted baby clothing. The business failed before it began because she couldn't help herself from giving her merchandise away free to all of the cute babies she would meet. Her other post-retirement business venture, being a weed dealer ("It's perfect- who would suspect a senile 72 year old woman of selling pot?!"), never really got off of the ground either.
In the last three years, as she battled her cancer diagnosis, Katherine lost the use of her legs and became reliant on a motorized wheelchair. She made the best of it and didn't let it stop her from moving around in the world, thus earning the nickname "Crash" by her building manager who was called to fix a LOT of drywall in her apartment and the common areas. "I've always wanted a nickname," she said in response.
Katherine Dittoe was an empath with a tender heart who carried the weight of the world on her shoulders and would give away anything she had if it would help someone else out. She was funny, sarcastic, generous, introverted, awkward, witty, forgiving, beautiful, clever, absent-minded, creative, embarrassing, introspective, just, curious, compassionate, and kind. She made an indelible impression on those who met her and will be very deeply missed by her family and friends and, of course, her mean old cat.
A Celebration of Life is being planned for May 13th in her hometown of Bethesda, Ohio. Details will be announced on social media. Memorial contributions can be made in Katherine's name to the Liz Prine Memorial Fund.